In what looks like a move to tighten the screws yet further in Tajikistan, government officials wishing to travel outside the country are reportedly being required to first seek permission from the presidential administration.
The administration happens to be run by one of President Emomali Rahmon’s daughters, Ozoda Rahmon.
This new rule, which has been reported by news website Tojnews, extends to civil servants in the armed services, diplomats and journalists with state media, among others.
“These instructions were sent to departments in a letter from the office of the president of Tajikistan. The decree requires heads of department to coordinate all their staff’s trips with the presidential apparatus. For this, it is necessary to send a request to the presidential apparatus, and a response will be issued within five days,” Tojnews reported.
Previously, civil servants were granted clearance to leave Tajikistan by the Foreign Ministry. This new arrangement reportedly applies to work and leisure trips alike.
Many Tajik citizens already experience limitations on their right to travel.
For the last couple of years, Tajik students wishing to go abroad could only do so with express permission from the Education Ministry and the security services. The restriction is understood to be a reaction by the authorities to the perception of increased recruitment by terrorist organizations like the Islamic State group. Back in 2015, Rahmon stated that 18 students from Tajikistan had joined Islamic State. No more up-to-date figures are available on the purported recruitment by terror groups.
Any student leaving the country without proper authorization these days runs the risk of expulsion from their place of learning.
In March, the General Prosecutor’s Office said it was intensifying scrutiny of Tajiks leaving the country, even those going to Russia. Particular focus is being dedicated to young people going abroad for the first time, women with children, and people from poor families, particularly if they have nobody waiting for them in Russia. Anybody ringing alarm bells can be barred from departure.
All this fretting is motivated by worries about the perceived threat of extremist Islam. Sure enough, one senior police officer who had even received training from the United States, Col. Gulmurod Khalimov, defected to the Islamic State group in early 2015, so the alarm is not wholly unjustified.
Concern over the potential creeping influence of radical Islam has also prompted the government to place greater emphasis on surveilling the country’s mosques. As the Dushanbe city government said on October 3, a network of close circuit cameras have been installed in mosques and will be available for scrutiny online, just in case anybody tries to pray the wrong way.